Auto Tech

Would you spend $18,000 on carbon wheels for a Porsche 911?

Porsche claims it's the first in the industry to use a special carbon braiding process.

Porsche

If you're going to buy a set of wheels for your $260,000 supercar, why not ball out and buy a set of carbon fiber wheels that cost as much as an economy car?

Porsche announced Friday that it is the first automaker in the world to offer carbon fiber wheels that use a unique braiding process. The wheels weigh about 20 percent less than standard alloy wheels, or about 18 pounds. Lower wheel weight means lower unsprung mass, which improves handling when decreased.

That will not be cheap to fix if it nicks a curb.

Porsche

As you might expect, making a set of carbon fiber wheels isn't easy. Porsche actually uses two different processes to make the rim itself and the center face. The face is built using more than 200 individually cut pieces of carbon fiber fabric.

The rim, though, is made through a special process called braiding, which as you might expect braids the carbon fibers together. Porsche claims it makes the resulting component denser, increasing its rigidity. It's also a more efficient process, which means fewer waste products are left over.

Once the rim is braided together, Porsche then weaves together the rim and wheel face. Following that marriage, everything is soaked in resin and hardened at high temperatures and high pressures. After a long cooling process, the center-lock mechanism is installed in the hub and the finished wheel receives a clear lacquer.

You might be interested in a set, but you probably won't be able to buy them. They're only an option for the $260,000-ish Porsche 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series, only 500 of which will be built. There's also the matter of cost -- a set of these wheels will set you back about $18,000. Four carbon wheels or a Ford Fiesta? Decisions, decisions...

Porsche might be the first to use the braiding process, but it's not the first automaker to offer carbon fiber wheels. Ford will sell you a set for the Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 and GT350R. You can also pick up a set for the Ford GT. General Motors has been looking into this technology, as well.